VC Linda Li: The potential of e-health in China

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In China’s increasingly convenience-focused economy, venture capital investor Linda Li says a more efficient healthcare is on the horizon.

“It’s hard to imagine that in this day and age we can so easily use Meituan [food delivery app] to order lunch, but still have to wait for five hours at the hospital to see a specialist,” said Li, managing director and partner at Vickers Venture Partners in Shanghai. “I think e-health is the next step.”

Li is responsible for the firm’s investment business in China and focuses on consumer internet, mobile applications, financial services and precision medicine.

Vickers invests in China, the United States, and Southeast Asia, and believes that new technology and business models can be transferred from one area to another. The company has offices in Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and New York, according to its website.

In the past, Li says, those ideas have flowed from the US to China and then to Southeast Asia, but in today’s e-health industry, there has been a reversal. Chinese ideas are spreading.

Li said when it comes to e-health China and the US each has their own strengths. “The US may be slightly better than China in terms of innovation, but China is better than the US in optimizing service technology,” she said.

Some say China’s next hurdle is to standardize health data, but Li doesn’t believe this is the best approach. She believes an influx of new, third-party companies, that provide health services will bring more competition, more modes of collecting data, and ultimately, better services for Chinese consumers.

“I am really optimistic about these third party companies,” Li said. “They are really able to collect data for consumers who are willing to pay.”

Li believes a successful e-health company requires strengths in four areas: online services, mobility, doctor relations and multiple patient services.

Li joined Vickers in 2005 and has grown up alongside the firm’s investments. “2005 was a booming time in China’s VC history,” Li said. “I joined in this industry at the right time.” In her experience, she’s found that the biggest industry breakthroughs come from outsiders.

“The [healthcare] industry hasn’t done very well for many years,” she said. “So why don’t allow people to use another way to solve the problem?”